Resume Fraud: increasingly prevalent in today’s virtual environment

The new business manager you hired—the one with the terrific resume and reference? It turns out she never worked for the employers named on the resume, nor knew the supervisors listed as references—despite the glowing recommendations they wrote for her. Instead, she paid for a legitimate appearing, completely phony resume and references.

This practice, once uncommon, has grown increasingly prevalent given the numbers of companies that dissolved during the pandemic and the numbers of organizations that laid off their HR officers or mid-level managers making reference checking more difficult.

Here’s what you need to know:

Fake resumes and references for sale

Do you think you can spot a fraudulent resume?

Google “career excuse” or visit, one of several Internet sites offering job candidates hard-to-see-through fake work histories and references. If you’d like to try the process yourself, you can click to complete a free reference request form and see your (fake) references before you buy them.

Applicants using can develop a fake yet validated resume with prompts such as “choose your career history;” “pick your start and end date;” “get rid of” a 3-year resume gap” and “choose your salary.” The site claims that “bankrupt companies make great previous employers” and offers that they have “dozens of bankrupt companies…ready to provide any inquirer your desired reference information.”

According to the site, they provide job candidates “a real company with an actual address and a real 800 number” with live “operators standing by” to field prospective employer calls. That means if you, as a prospective employer, call the reference listed, you access a real person who alleges to have known your applicant well and vouches for his or her sterling work history.

Even authentic employers give inaccurate references

Perhaps you’ve run across less devious candidates who didn’t measure up to the reference letters you received from their former employers. Here the problem may result from conflict-adverse former employers who write positive reference letters out of guilt or to ward off potential problems from volatile laid off or terminated employees. The reference letter you’re looking at may have been written by the employee you’ve just interviewed, who offered to draft a letter for her former manager’s signature. The former supervisor took the easy way out to save time, and then signed the letter even though it overstated the soon-to-be former employee’s qualities, just to be done with the situation.

Take the time to know who you’re hiring

How can employers defend against resume and reference fraud?—by making extensive reference checking calls and exploring all danger signals before making hiring decisions.

Personally call the references listed on the resumes as well as references not provided by the applicant. No law says you can’t, and supervisors not listed by the candidate often reveal problems you need to know about.

Feeling stuck because your applicant’s former employers no longer exist, or her supervisors have moved on? In this Internet accessible age, you can search for former supervisors by name even when the company has dissolved, or the supervisor has left the company.

Think carefully before allowing your candidate to block you from calling her current supervisor. By complying with her request, you miss the other side of the story. Did that charming interviewee present a different side once hired? Was it only bad luck the applicant worked for three companies that bankrupted? Did he fake his job history or speed these companies in their downward spiral with the costs from a business manager who used antiquated work methods and piled up a fat overtime expense?

While you need to respect a candidate’s request that you not contact a current employer unless you’re about to make an offer, you can offer a position contingent on a positive reference check. You can also let your applicant know you feel you need to do a reference check and ask her permission if that’s the only step keeping you from an offer. If she says “no,” you can then move on to your second-ranked candidate.

In-depth resume-probing often surfaces cover-ups and inconsistencies. Look for applicants who cover up a short-term problem job by extending the time worked for the employers before and after the omitted job.

Notice if an applicant alleges attendance at a residential university in one part of the country during the same months she worked for an employer in another state. When we background check, we regularly discover applicants who claim university degrees from institutions that have no record of the candidate.

Finally, conduct a background check, so you can uncover criminal and civil legal problems that you may “own” if you move too quickly to hire based on a “too good to be true” interview.

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3 thoughts on “Resume Fraud: increasingly prevalent in today’s virtual environment

  1. Good interviewing techniques help a lot. Asking for details about what they did in their previous positions and “what would you do if” types of questions help evaluate the candidate’s actual experience. I’ve seen people say they’re expert in a particular software, but when they’re asked what types of things they’ve done, it doesn’t reflect expert skills.

  2. Wow. I’ve known about fake resumes and fake references for a while, but this is taking it to a whole new level–organized, paid-for fakery. I guess with organized fake applications to prestigious schools, organized, paid-for fake applications had to be somewhere in the lineup. Your suggestions, as ever, are helpful methods for looking for and spotting fakes.

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